Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The evolution of a weapon

 In the The City and The City at Lifeline Theater I had a very interesting design challenge. The play takes place in a fictional alternate reality, that is very realistic and similar to our own. Part of the show takes place at an archaeological dig and over the course of the show we hear that there are rumors about the artifacts being found there, "strange physics," "magic properties" etc.
In the final scene the audience gets to see one of these magical artifacts. The villain is holding a piece and threatening the detective with it, "do you want to see what it can do?"
I needed something that looked like it could be centuries old, but still technologically advanced, and that could plausibly keep the detective on edge about what kind of threat it was.
 This was the Nerf weapon that I started with as a base.
 I spray painted it this cranberry color, then used spikes made out of bake-able clay, marbles and stones to create this look. It was all wrong, and yet I wasn't sure quite how to fix it. It looked far too "gun-like" it's function seemed obvious, and it's design was far more "Lost in Space" than ancient artifact.
 For round two I removed all of the dart holders and firing mechanisms from the front of the gun. I figured shortening the barrel would make it less obviously gun-like.
 The bits of plastic and rough cut edges inside also made it look a bit more antiqued and less polished.
 Then I added more stones, crystals on top, and a round white "magic-egg" (that was what it was labeled as in the store) on the inside.

 I still hated the look of the piece after the second draft was done. I decided the finish was the problem. It was just too smooth and plastic-y to have believable been in the ground for centuries. I mixed a handful of sawdust with some metallic paint and covered everything but the stones.

 Finally I was pretty happy with the piece, unfortunately the play-write and director were not. Because of the way the scene was blocked, the audience ends up staring directly down the barrel of the gun for the majority of the scene. The white egg wasn't reading as magical, and the way the handle was held made it still feel too much like an altered gun.
 For round four I cut off the bottom of the handle to force the actor to grip the piece differently. I then added a tapered dowel to the bottom of the handle to add a second stabbing weapon to the piece.  I removed the white stone egg, and added springs, washers, nuts, and other random hardware to make the magic of the piece feel more like a technical marvel than the fair tale magic feeling all those stones were giving it. After adding these pieces, I did another coat of a different colored metallic paint and sawdust to add a corroded look to the mechanisms.

 Finally, everyone was happy with the weapon.
And because the nerf guns came in a two pack, I got to get this awesome before and after picture.

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